Thursday, 22 April 2010

Early 70s Dr. John, Capt. Beefheart, my first band with Holly and Janis

First gig of the new decade for us is Roland Kirk at the Festival Hall, a very talented jazz musician, he is blind, wears shades, and has quite an imposing physique. With the use of circular breathing he is able to play several saxes at once and the flute with his nose. I think I've made him sound like a circus act, he's actually seriously good.

Valentine's Day and the Soft Machine are at the LSE.  It's a good venue with a nice laid back vibe and I've always been very fond of Soft Machine, saw them play often and their previous incarnation with Kevin Ayres too. The current line up is Mike Ratledge, Robert Wyatt, Elton Dean, Lyn Dobson and Hugh Hopper. Me and Pete didn't really go for the Valentine's celebration, but this was a good evening.

4th May - Kent State University, Ohio is all over the news, four students are shot dead, several others injured by the National Guard, because of their protests against the US's invasion of Cambodia.  Some of those shot were just walking by, looking at what was going on, it is a dreadful over reaction by Americans against other Americans. It is an appalling event, many songs are written about it, including Neil Young's 'Ohio' recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Festival time is here again, I'm going to the Bath Festival on 27th/28th June with Pete, and can't wait to see Dr. John. We're going to sleep in Pete's van and although not that comfy it's got to be better than a tent, particularly as it rains all night. We take a camping gas stove and to my surprise manage to cook something edible. There's a pretty good line up, Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane, John Mayall with Peter Green, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Canned Heat, Country Joe and the Fish 'give me an F, give me a U' yep we knew where this was headed, the rousing fish/fuck cheer.

Someone comes on stage asks if there is a doctor in the house, the audience can see Dr. John walking up behind him. Exactly what I'd want if I was having a medical emergency. He began the set as dawn was breaking, his bright yellow robes, his voice, his fabulous New Orleans voodoo  - 'Gris Gris', 'Walk on Guilded Splinters'. There were some big acts at this festival but I think Dr. John took the prize. We were packing up the van and eating our last meal, the festival had over run and we were left with a can of baked beans, gingersnap biscuits and radishes. We cooked the beans, broke up the biscuits and chucked some radishes into the two cups we were using for drinking and eating (not necessarily at the same time), a rather indigestible concoction, but strangely appealing, I think I can still taste it.

I've been placing ads in Melody Maker with my boyfriend Pete to make and sell bespoke jewellery and clothes (Pete is a jeweller as well as a guitarist), we get some work but not enough.  It is becoming clear that I need more skill and eventually make the decision to leave work and start a two year course at the London College of Fashion. It goes well, I'm learning things I need to know and improving on the work I'm doing. Best of all I like tailoring and make several jackets and coats. One of my designs is shown in the end of year show and I have to say I really enjoyed seeing my creation on a model strutting down the catwalk. Danny Noble is in my class, his girlfriend is the choreographer Arlene Phillips and he often turns up wearing her clothes, making derogatory comments about the state they were in, which were pretty funny. He said his dad had changed his first name to Lord, and would now be known as Lord Noble, whether Danny would be inheriting the peerage I don't know. Being at college has been a good move, I get a grant and also make and sell clothes, so not doing too badly, meet some nice people and generally have an interesting time. I call my label Big Mutt, I thought it was funny although I doubt it increased sales.

I'm still playing guitar, but it's not really doing it for me. Pete's bass is lying around and as soon as I pick it up I know this is it. I play his for a while until I can afford my own, a Gibson EB0, which Pete fits an extra pick up to. I buy a Selmer 50w bass amp and we build a cabinet for a 15" speaker, paint the chipboard black and add a pink and gold front cover. It's a work of art! I can't wait to get going, my learning is mostly done by playing along to records.

Finally the album 'Brian Jones presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka' gets released in October 1971, it was recorded back in 1968 when he and Brion Gysin went on a trip to Morocco. These Master Musicians are stunning and can seriously mess with your head, in the nicest possible way of course. I would love to hear this music live and of course I do, not yet though.

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band are on at the Albert Hall, Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) starts the show and what a start it is, unusual to open with the bass player, playing alone and Rockette is just the guy to do it.  Roy Estrada another bass player, Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkelroad), Winged Eel Fingerling (Elliot Ingber), on guitars, Ed Marimba (Artie Tripp) percussion are all part of the madness along with the Captain.

See the Faces play many times, entertaining though they are, sometimes it seems like they are having more fun than the audience.

The time has come when I have to start auditioning, there are a few ads in Melody Maker for female musicians and I answer those. I have no experience and am a bit of raw recruit, not everyone wants to take that on. They are quite nice about it, but in the end rejection is not that easy to take.

The time has also come to have another go at driving because I have to keep asking people, mainly Pete, to drive me to rehearsals, auditions etc. and I think I've begun to wear out my welcome. Let the mayhem begin.

Ooh another appearance of the mesmerising Captain and his band, Rockette Morton, Zoot Horn Rollo, Alex St. Clair/Snouffer and Ed Marimba this time at the Rainbow. There's never been anything like this before and I doubt there ever will be again. They are unique.

9th May 1973, the day of the driving test, which I elect to take in Mill Hill, a nice quiet north London suburb rather than the manic Wood Green which was my nearest centre and pass first time. No one is more surprised than me, unless you include my driving instructor, who all the way back to the BSM office in Kings Cross keeps saying 'I can't believe you passed'. On some of our lessons, he told me I drove like a girl and should be more firm with the gear stick (not a euphemism). I could hardly afford to learn to drive and had booked my test before I started my lessons, as I thought I would probably not pass first time I took as few lessons as possible leading up to the first one. The driving school were not happy with this approach and did not let me forget it.

Not long after, I replied to an ad in Melody Maker from a female singer looking for other women to form a band. Four of us meet at a rehearsal studio in Kings Cross and attempt to find a song we all know so we can play something. There is a drummer called Frankie, Janis, a guitarist, I'm on bass and the singer who placed the ad. Unfortunately she's too nervous to open her mouth, we try to encourage her, but she can't bring herself to do it. We agree to meet at the same place the following week to try again, she doesn't come but the rest of us do. A few rehearsals later, while we are still looking for another singer, Frankie says she's not ready for this, thinks she would hold us back and refuses to come again. Good grief - I thought we were all in the same boat.

While thrilled that I had passed the driving test, I now need something to drive. I find a mature dark blue Ford Cortina estate, with fake wood dashboard and trimmings. It was quite an item and very useful when it's running. It chose some really awful places to break down. On my way to jam with Janis one rush hour evening, it overheated near the top of Muswell Hill. Steam was gushing out from under the bonnet and it would go no further, so I rolled it backwards, down the hill, in the dark and swung it into the car park of the cinema that used to be there. A lot of hooting from the irate drivers who had been stuck behind me, this was seriously stressful.

Janis and I continue to meet up and play together while trying to find other like minded females to join us. Many hours are spent with the two of us jamming in her and her husband's various flats, along with her young son Gary, a cute kid with curly red hair, who would go on to make more headlines than we ever did, by hacking into the Pentagon's computer. Her husband Wilson is a guitarist too and very supportive of us. Finally Holly Beth Vincent answers our ad and becomes the drummer. She's from California, plays with great verve and brio and is very funny, we all get on well. We find a singer - Kris from New Zealand. Holly has been hiring a drum kit, while her parents arrange to fly hers over from LA. We go to collect it from Heathrow and now need somewhere to keep it - where else but my Nan's front room. She's OK with it, I'm not sure my parents are, but I think she enjoys our visits, admittedly some of them are rather late at night. We do a lot of rehearsing, but not much more, eventually we see the writing on the wall and it comes to an end. Janis stays with singer and I stay with Holly.

Holly and I advertise ourselves as a female rhythm section looking for a guitarist singer, we get quite a lot of replies, all male who seemed to find us puzzling, amusing and/or a novelty. Mark Knopfler was one of them, we could tell he was good but didn't think he was for us, although he took to Holly in a big way. This photo is from 5 years later with me and my husband on the left and Mark Knopfler and Holly on the right.

Went to see the Rolling Stones at Wembley Empire Pool, pretty good show, although I'm not really a fan of big venues. Obviously I was/am a big Brian Jones fan, but Mick Taylor is a smart choice, he's a good foil for Keith, their styles are quite different, he brings an extra dimension and lifts their game. Billy Preston, the brass and the backing singers are all top quality.

January 1974
Pete, Gary and John Walden a harmonica player are putting together an instrumental band to play at a works party and they ask me to play bass, I presume I have Pete to thank for this opportunity. I say yes, but am really nervous and don't think I'm ready. I'm not sure when I would have felt ready, so it's just as well I was pushed. (The photo is of me and Pete).

The gig is one of those where the bingo is of way more interest than the band, but for me it is the first time I've played in public, I am still extremely nervous and anxious not to let anyone down. During the set I notice the tempo is changing speed, I look over at the drummer and find that his attention is fixed upon two girls who are dancing and grinning at him. Clearly the extra curricular activities are of more importance than playing the drums.

March 74 - Holly and I join up with a guy called Rick, who plays guitar and sings, he wanted a female rhythm section to back him in his band called Amazin' (according to him this was a play on the words amazing and Amazon). We play one gig at Edgware Football Club and we record at Sarm Studios in Whitechapel. This is my first time in a studio. It is a dreadful experience, I am ill with flu and have a raging temperature. I manage to get the bass part down and spend the rest of the night passing in and out of consciousness. I don't know how many takes Rick did to get the vocals down or how long the mixing took, but I thought I would die if I ever heard that song again. Somehow it's been wiped from my memory and happily have no idea of how it went or what it was called.

Some of Rick's friends decided they would choose outfits for me and Holly to wear on stage. When they gave Holly some denim dungarees, a straw hat and a red and white spotted scarf I knew it was not going to end well. If they thought she was ever going to put them on, they were sadly mistaken. I think her words were 'I am not wearing this fucking shit' and they found themselves out on the street very quickly. I don't think we met Rick again.

Out of the blue I get a call from a band called Cosmetix. They ask me to join them, as their bass player has been injured in car crash and can't play. I offer to stand in until she recovers. We meet in a hall somewhere in South London, we'd been jamming for a bit when their bass player also called Jackie staggers in to show she is ready to work and has no need for a stand in. We'd enjoyed playing together, but obviously now was not the time.

My favourite band of the moment is Sharks, they're often on at the Marquee. We missed their initial line up with Andy Fraser on bass, only seeing them on OGWT. Busta Cherry Jones from Memphis, had replaced him by the time we see them live. Keyboard player Nick Judd joined around this time.  We love this band, we are already big fans of the guitarist Chris Spedding, the singer Snips, is wild, dresses really well and has a powerful raw voice. Busta sounds great, certainly makes his own visual statement and works well with the drummer Marty Simon. They have a bunch of impressive songs 'Kung Fu', 'Snakes and Swallowtails', 'Sophistication', 'Revolution of the Heart', 'Surrender' among many. They made two albums 'First Water' and 'Jab It In Yore Eye' neither of which remotely capture what they were like live. The third album produced by John Entwistle was never released (except now in 2016 it is - titled 'The Car Crash Tapes' - with some eye watering bass playing from Dave Cochran - love it).

30th March 1974 - Holly and I answer an ad in Melody Maker to join the guitarist Mike Corby in a band to be called Tintagel. We rehearse quite a bit and actually get paid for doing so. Something of a revelation. Mike and I were both using Ampeg speakers and 350w amps which sound fabulous, but regularly overheat and cease to work. Mike was a lot of fun to play with and had a nice big fat guitar sound. We were a powerful rocking three piece.

There was always an audience at our rehearsals in the ITN building, who brought free drugs and alcohol and if they didn't have what you liked someone would go get it for you. How pleasingly rock and roll.

We moved our rehearsals to Sound City on Lots Road, the midnight to six slot, the French radio station owner who is financing the band comes to see us. I think he was happy with what he saw and was about to leave, he opens the studio door and shouts something in French. We all stared at him, apparently he had left his briefcase containing a whole lot of dosh, outside the door and now it had disappeared.  What kind of idiot is this guy? He said he thought the whole place was was secure and it would be safe there. Why would you think that? Who would leave a bag full of cash in a hallway? The studio called the police. 'You've called the police!' the guy with the drugs shouted and began to leg it, only to see them pulling up outside, he shot back in and sat on the case of coke. Luck was with him that night, the police were not particularly interested in him or us, even though he was sitting on a briefcase very much like the one that had gone missing. They wrote in their notepads for a while and then we were all allowed to leave. What this was about I never found out, whether it was some sort of scam or the guy was as stupid as fuck I don't know. This band came to an end soon after and I didn't see Holly again for quite a few years.

I was back out auditioning and now have the confidence to answer any interesting bass playing ads not just those aimed at females. At this time you were quite often asked to play your favourite riff.  This was a no brainer for me, I only knew one, which was the first thing I ever learned to play on the bass. It was a guitar riff played by Chris Spedding on an Ian Carr's Nucleus track called '1916' and as I find out many years later, titled for its time signature and not the year. Of course no one could ever work out what the hell was going on and would accuse me of playing it differently each time.  Eventually they would get hung up on solving it. This gave the impression that I was a genius at playing complex time signatures, not the case, I'd learned this particular riff because I liked it and until I began playing it to others had no idea how complicated it was.

Great night out - Gaumont State Kilburn, Ron Wood, Keith Richards, Willie Weeks, Andy Newmark, Ian McLagan and Rod Stewart. This is a top feel good gig, the way it was with the Faces except for the winner addition of Keith and a rock steady rhythm section.